Animation with DAZ Studio

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Figure 1. A single frame from an animation that shows a human character walking.

This is a learning project for exploring how to make computer-generated animations using DAZ Studio, a type of 3D computer graphics software. If you are not familiar with the DAZ Studio software, start at Rendering models of living organisms or Bryce.

Introduction[edit]

This tutorial shows how to use DAZ Studio to make a short video of an animated character. This tutorial gives special emphasis to a common concern for animating human characters: producing an acceptable realistic walk.

Animation[edit]

For this tutorial you can use the Victoria character that comes with DAZ Studio. Alternatively, you can download and use other characters such as the "Apollo Maximus" model. Take note of the instructions on page 97 for how to activate the window pane that shows the animation timeline. The DAZ Studio manual has information in Chapters 12 and 22 about the timeline and creating animations with DAZ Studio.

Add models to a scene[edit]

Figure 2. A single frame from an animation that shows a human character walking. This pose is the mirror image of that shown in Figure 1 (above, right).

Reading: during this tutorial, make use of Chapter 8 in the DAZ Studio manual, "The Content Tab". If you are not familiar with adding model elements to a scene, you might want to first read about how to add models to a scene. Add a human character into a DAZ Studio scene.

Clothing elements[edit]

To add some clothing to your character, click on the "Scene" tab and make sure that the scene element corresponding to your character is selected. Click on the "Content" tab and find an item or two of available clothing. Double click on some items of clothing to add them to the scene. You might want to use some clothing models from Serge Marck.

Click on the "Scene" tab, and in turn, select (click on) each item of clothing in the list of scene elements. While each clothing element is selected, go to the "Parameters" pane on the right side of your screen and find the "Fit to" drop-down menu in the "Misc" section of the list of parameters. Set each item of clothing to fit to the character element of the scene (shown here in Figure 1 is the "Victoria" character).

Hair[edit]

Click on the "Scene" tab, and make sure that your human character element is selected in the list of scene elements. Return to the "Content" pane and find a hair element and add it to your scene. See if you can fit the hair to the head.

Background[edit]

You can use a plain background if you want (see page 56 of the DAZ Studio manual). The examples shown use "Dystopia" City Block #19 as an interesting background.

Posing the character[edit]

Click on the "Scene" tab, and make sure that the human character element is selected in the list of scene elements. Return to the "Content" pane and find one of the preset poses for your character.

In the "Render" menu, select "Render setup...". At the top of the control panel that opens, make sure the "speed" slider is all the way to the right (software render). Close that control panel and select "Render". Figure 1 (above) shows an example of what your scene should now look like.

If you are using the "Victoria" character that comes with DAZ Studio, the available preset body poses are for a "fairy" and include poses such as "hovering". For this tutorial, we want to animate walking. The "DAZ Studio 3D Models Pack" that is available for download from several websites includes some additional poses for "Victoria". Figure 1 shows the "V3 stride" preset pose. The sample animation described here (see Figure 6, below) uses this pose at both the start and the end of the animation. If you have not already done so, open a window pane for the DAZ Studio animation timeline. You might want to make use of this animation tutorial and this timeline tutorial to help you become familiar with the controls that are in the timeline pane.

For the example animation shown here, the timeline was set from 0 to 60 frames. At the default frame rate of 30 frames per second, 60 frames will allow a 2 second long animation. This is enough time for two long strides, one with the left foot moving and one with the right foot moving. If you have a slow computer, you might want to only use the default 30 frames in the animation timeline. If you want to match the values discussed in this tutorial, change your timeline settings to extend your animation to 60 frames.

Key frames[edit]

Figure 3. Frame 15 of the animation; half way between Figure 1 and Figure 2.

Read what this animation tutorial has to say about key frames. The basic idea is that a key frame is a frame in which you edit an element of the animation. A good goal is to edit as few frames as possible while letting DAZ Studio calculate all of the required changes to the frames between your key frames. For this example of a human figure walking, we can try to use just 5 key frames out of the total of 60 frames. The key frames are frames 0, 15, 30, 45 and 60.

Key frames apply to selected elements of the scene. While the frame indicator on the timeline is still at zero, make sure your human character is selected and click on the "add key frame" button of the timeline pane (the 9th button from the right, it has a white "+" sign superimposed on a black key). Move the current frame to frame 30, the middle frame of the animation. For this frame, the goal is to show the walking character with the other foot forward, as shown in Figure 2 (above, left). DAZ Studio has a feature that makes this easy.

Trick: mirror images[edit]

DAZ Studio allows you to easily generate mirror-image poses from existing poses. Click on the "Scene" tab and make sure that your character is selected in the list of scene elements. In the "Scene" pane, expand the list of all the component elements of your human character. You can do this quickly using the "Expand from selection" option in the drop-down menu for the "Scene" window pane (DAZ Studio window panes have a drop-down options menu that can be accessed by clicking on the small triangle near the top right corner of the pane). Select all of the component elements of your human character. See Chapter 10 in the DAZ Studio manual for help with expanding and selecting all of the component elements of your walking character. The basic trick for selecting a long list of character elements is to click the first one then hold down the "shift" key while clicking the last one. Note: for this mirror-image pose "trick", do not select the character item itself, only select its component elements.

Chapter 11 of the DAZ Studio manual shows how to access the the Parameter Options menu from the parameters window pane. Select "Symmetry" from the menu. Page 211 of the manual shows the symmetry dialog window. Set the following in the dialog:

  • nodes:selected
  • propagation:none
  • direction:swap
  • trunk nodes:mirror rotations
    Click the accept button. DAZ studio should then produce a mirror-image pose of your human character, such as the one shown in Figure 2 (above, left).

Translation[edit]

Figure 4. Save the pose at frame 15.

Movement of a figure across the scene is called "translation". The pose in which "Victoria" has her left foot forward needs to be moved towards the right hand side of the screen. With the human character still selected in the list of scene elements in the "Scene" window pane, use the slider in the "Parameters" pane for translation along the "x" axis. Move your human character so that the toes of the right foot in frame 30 look correctly positioned (compared to frame 0).

Pay attention to the box that surrounds your human figure when it is selected. Make sure that it does not sink below the surface of the floor. If the bottom of your human character is below the surface of the floor in either frame 0 or frame 30, use the slider for translation in the "y" dimension to nudge your human figure upwards. Make frame 30 a key frame for "Victoria".

Frame 15[edit]

Move the frame selector of the timeline pane to frame 15. Note that DAZ Studio automatically calculates poses for all of the frames between the first frame and frame 30. Does the pose of your character in frame 15 look like someone who is walking? Walk across the room and watch your own knees while you walk.

Bending limbs. Try bending the elements of the left leg to make a more realistic appearance for that leg as it moves forward (Figure 3 shows an example). Make use of Chapter 14 in the DAZ Studio manual if you are new to modifying the angles of bones in limbs. Again check that your figure is not sinking into the floor and click the "make key frame" button when you are done adjusting frame 15.

Saving poses[edit]

You can use the mirror-image of your character's pose in frame 15 for the pose in frame 45. DAZ Studio allows you to save poses for later re-use. Make sure that your human figure is still selected in your scene. Go to the "Save as..." sub-menu in the DAZ Studio "File" menu. From the "Save as..." sub-menu, select "pose preset". You can save your poses in a folder such as "My poses". To make your pose not include the actual current position of your character, use the custom setting shown in Figure 4.

Open "Preferences" in the DAZ Studio "File" menu. Click on the "Directories" tab (see page 136 in the DAZ Studio manual PDF file). The drop-down menu should say, "DAZ|Studio Content Directories", which is what you want. Now click on the "Add..." button and navigate to your "My poses" folder. Click the "Apply" button. You should see the "My poses" folder added to the list of content folders shown on the left side of your screen. Click the "Accept" button to exit the preferences window. You should now have access to the "My poses" poses within DAZ Studio.

Move the frame selector of the timeline pane to frame 45. Make sure that your walking character is selected in the "Scene" pane. Click on the "Content" tab and open the "My poses" folder. You should see your saved pose from frame 15; apply it to frame 45 by double clicking on it. Now repeat the mirror trick to produce a new pose such as that in Figure 5 (below, right). Reminder: make any needed adjustments to the position of your character on the "x" and "y" axes. Click the "make key frame" button when you are done posing your character in frame 45.

Wrap up[edit]

Figure 5. Mirror-image of the pose in Figure 3. This is Frame 45 of the animation.

Move the frame selector of the timeline pane to frame 45. Apply the same pose preset that you used for frame 0. Click the "make key frame" button when you are done posing your character in frame 45.

Extras[edit]

Feel free to play around with the frames of your animation. The example shown in Figure 6 (below) is a scene with the character walking along a street near sunset. It looked like something was being stepped on, so a can was added to the scene!

Null. Page 31 of the manual shows the "add new spotlight" button. Just to the right of the new spotlight button is a button that allows you to add a "null" object to the scene. For this sample animation (Figure 6), a "null" was used as a target for the human character to look at. Without this trick, the animated human character was mostly looking down. The "null" was placed for off scene to the right and elevated. The head element of the animated character was selected in the "Scene" window pane and then the "Point to" drop-down menu of the "Parameters" pane was used to select the null.

Primitives. Just to the right of the "null" button is a button that allows you to add "primitives" such as cylinders to the scene. After the "can" was stepped on, it was moved down along the "y" axis and out of sight. A second "primitive", a box, was moved up to a position extending slightly above the floor level to take the place of the "can", looking like a flattened can.

Point light source. The glowing lamp on the street was created by using a point source of light. See page 35 in the DAZ Studio manual for information about using light sources.

Render the animation[edit]

Figure 6. Animated gif for the walking animation. View this DAZ Studio-generated animation video with sound in OGG file format. Help with ogg format video play. (dowload OGG format video file).

See section 4 of the DAZ Studio manual for information about the "Render" menu and rendering individual frames. Notice that in the "Render settings" dialog under "timeline" there is an option for making a movie.

Movie making options. For Macintosh, you have two options in the "Render settings" dialog. The option for saving rendered images as a QuickTime movie (.mov) format only works for version 1.5 if your rendered sequence of frames includes the first frame (frame 0). The other option is to let DAZ Studio save all of the rendered frames as single images. You can then use a utility program to convert the series of images into a movie.

Additional activities[edit]

Upload to Wikiversity an example of your own animation results.

Note: At this time, there are two options for adding video to Wikiversity: animated gif files and OGG format video. You can use software such as GIMP to make animated gifs. The OGG video for this tutorial was made using these instructions.

Where next[edit]

See also[edit]

Tools for creating internet content
See also: Digital media workshop - Related discussion: Free content


External links[edit]